By Emily Klingman
Loud, adrenaline-pumping music was flowing from the Yvonne Theater before the R Factor Auditions even started on Friday Sept. 16. Students filled almost all the seats as the lights went down and the hosts of the night, senior public relations major Kevin Grunder and freshman English major Jacklyn Palmer, came out to start the show.
Grunder and Palmer announced the rules for the night. Participants were split into three random groups, each with their own judge. After each act sang, the other two judges would give their critiques before the deciding judge chose if the singer would take a spot on the two-seat couch. None of the singers were safe until the entire group had gone.
There was also a wild-card round at the end of the night where one of the judges could bring someone back as a third member of their team.
The hosts then announced the judges for the night: Trace Kennedey, Dani Knights and Rider’s own Nick Barbati, assistant director of campus life. The first acts to go compete for Knights’ team.
Leading off freshman behavioral neuroscience major Caleb Holt sang Beyoncé’s “Love On Top.” He started out a little shaky, but as he found his confidence, he started snapping, and the audience’s involvement built. Everyone in the audience loved it, with Holt ending his audition to thunderous applause.
Kennedy told him the second Holt got into it, he knew it was special, saying, “As soon as you took it up, man, it was super dope.”
Knights repeated the other judges’ praise, and gave Holt the first seat of the night.
Sophomore elementary education major Paige Davis sang Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You.” The crowd immediately was overjoyed, with people even pulling out their phones to sway back and forth to the music. As she ended the song, the audience gave Davis a standing ovation. The judges were mesmerized with the performance.
Knights loved it so much she made the first switch of the night and gave Davis a seat on her team’s couch.
“I was super nervous when you said you were singing it,” she said. “It’s my favorite song. You just made it seem pretty effortless.”
After a couple more auditions for Knights’ team, singers auditioned for Barbati’s team, starting with junior beahavioral neuroscience major Corey Laramore singing a version of The Animals’ “I Put a Spell On You.” He started out a capella, but, as soon as the music started, the crowd went wild. Audience members loved it when he hit the low notes of the song. The judges were equally impressed with the performance.
Kennedey Barbati gave his first spot on the team away after he praised Laramore’s song choice.
“I thought your voice matched the song perfectly; there’s a performer in you waiting to come out,” he said.
The next big audition for Barbati’s team was sophomore arts administration major Kalif Jones, who came on stage with a guitarist to sing “The Only Exception” by Paramore. Before Jones even finished the first line, the crowd loved the performance. Everyone in the room got into it, especially his guitarist. People got their phones out and lit up the screens to sway with the music. At the end of the performance, Jones got a standing ovation.
Barbati loved it, switching out Laramore with Jones.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years, and this is my favorite audition ever,” he said.
The last performance for Barbati’s team was from junior health crisis managment major Chris Patrick, performing an original rap. He did a really good job, with the entire crowd so captivated it was quiet in the theater. Once Patrick finished, the crowd went wild with applause and cheers. The judges all praised him, with Kennedey even getting up from the judge’s table to hug him.
Barbati loved it just as much as Kennedey and Knights, referencing the reality TV show he recently appeared on when he announced his intention for Patrick to join his team.
“I think you just changed the game,” he said. “Someone call VH1 because I found my prince charming.”
During auditions for Kennedey’s team, freshman musiccal theater major Anna Sanzone gave one of the most memorable performances of the night, singing “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. The judges quickly got into her performance and the crowd’s applause and cheers grew as the song went on. Sanzone’s stage presence and talent built up and up, taking the audience by storm. The crowd went nuts once she finished and gave her a standing ovation. The judges absolutely loved her, with Kennedey ultimately giving her a spot.
“Voice? Dope. Outfit? Dope. Performance? Dope!” said Kennedey.
Sophomore English major Emily Scott gave the next memorable audition for Kennedey’s team, singing her own version of Afroman’s “Colt 45.” In a twist for the crowd, Scott didn’t announce what song she intended to sing when the judges asked. Instead, she told the crowd it was a surprise for them to figure out. She gave the song an interesting pop feel that the crowd loved and impressed the judges.
Kennedey praised her original take on the song, saying, “I loved the song, I think the song matched the hippie swag you have.”
However, despite the crowd’s loud pleas, Kennedey passed on giving Scott a seat.
The final participant of the night was sophomore psychology major Gabriela Mendoza, singing “I Who Have Nothing” by Benny King. She performed a cappella, starting slow before building up her strong, powerful voice. She recieved a lot of crowd praise for the high notes she hit and even more when the song finished, including a standing ovation. Judges loved her just as much and Kennedey gave her the final seat on his team.
In the wild card round, the hosts Palmer and Grunder came out with three envelopes for each of the judges. Kennedey got the one with the opportunity to choose someone who had not gotten a seat before. After listening to the crowd’s yells and pleas to bring Scott back, he finally conceded to the crowd’s demands and brought her back as his third team member.
Overall, it was an incredibly fun night with some really impressive showcasing of Rider’s musical talents. It made for some hard choices by the judges, but each team ultimately is going into the finals on Sept. 30 strong.
Printed in the 9/21/16 edition.